The original building, which was razed in 2003, opened in 1951. Mann’s sons, Jon and Nick, were students there, and he called upon his memories while brainstorming about the work, which was commissioned by friends and alumni of the school.
“I used to drive by to see the children’s pictures in the windows,” Mann said. “The teachers would put their wonderful paintings in the windows facing outward so they could be seen from the street.”
When asked to consider a piece of art for the school, Mann knew that creating a sculpture from scratch would be too expensive. However, he knew that he could design a sculpture that would resonate with everyone who had a history with the building if he could choose objects before it was razed.
“I had a notion,” Mann said. “However, I didn’t know what form it would take.”
On a visit to the building with his ideas in mind, Mann scavenged windows, doors, chairs, clocks, intercoms, fire alarms and public address speakers to be considered for the design. He took digital photos of his collection, and using his computer to make graphs and images to scale, he cut them out and scanned the photos to print out. He then designed several arrangements and settled on two – one stiff and angular and one fancy-free, which he took to the new school for students who were assembled in two sessions to make their selection for the sculpture.
Mann also discovered that in addition to being portable, the sculpture needed to be made in two parts to fit in the school’s elevator for use on the second floor.
Back at the drawing board to figure the dynamics of the piece and the steps necessary to bring it to life, Mann was challenged to consider safety issues and to produce a sculpture filled with energy that could have paintings placed in the windows.
Soon, the entire piece will be off to Spradlin Brothers Welding Co. in Springfield, where the assembly will be completed.
“Glazing, prep work, grinding, sanding, designing a rolling mechanism and thinking through safety issues,” Mann said as he explained some of the preliminary work to be accomplished. “The piece will be filled with vigor, with energy – with chairs cut in half to fling through the air, lining windows at angles, filled with energy, to place paintings in windows.”
“Former parents and alumni made donations for the sculpture, and the children did a penny drive,” said Rita Lane, principal of Snowhill Elementary School. She added that they wanted the sculpture to be fully mobile and used as a learning tool with seasonal interest.
Lane said the dedication for the new building will probably take place in September. She and Mann have agreed that it would be appropriate for the children to name the sculpture.
- Phyllis Eberts
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